When Forsyth County resident Dana Artz and her family awoke on New Year’s morning and started their day, they found a startling surprise waiting for them on the driveway.
"We were leaving New Year’s morning; our son had gone out to play basketball and was like, 'Hey, come here and look at the car,’” Artz said. “And at first I thought it was a burn hole from fireworks, but both he and my husband were both like, 'Nope, that's a bullet hole.’"
A bullet, likely shot by a New Year’s reveler, had fallen in the night or early morning and pierced the vehicle’s hood, prompting questions, confusion and anger from Artz and her family.
"What if me and my family had been standing out in the driveway celebrating when that happened?” Artz said on Friday. “It could have been much worse."
The family quickly filed a report with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, and were even able to narrow down a timeframe of when the bullet stuck the vehicle using their home security camera, but they know the individuals responsible for the damage probably won’t be caught.
"We don't know where the bullet came from. Our neighbor heard gunshots around 1 in the morning, but they're not sure what direction it was coming from,” she said.
This type of shooting, called “celebratory gunfire,” is rarely reported in Forsyth County and nearly impossible to investigate, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Cpl. Doug Rainwater said on Friday.
But as rare as cases like Artz’s are, Rainwater said that individuals shouldn’t discount the danger a falling bullet can pose.
According to Rainwater, a falling bullet has enough force to maim or kill, and falling bullets have been known to punch through windows or roofs.
“Whatever goes up has to come down,” he said. “The bullet isn’t going to stop until it hits something or the ground.”
Just this week, on New Year’s Eve, a woman was fatally shot outside her Houston residence, authorities in Texas say. Officials believe that the woman was struck by celebratory gunfire that may have originated from outside her immediate neighborhood.
And on New Year’s Day in 2010, a 4-year-old in DeKalb County was struck and killed by a stray bullet as he sat with his mother in church. Authorities believe that the stray bullet came through the roof of the churches’ sanctuary and struck the boy in his head.
While they are glad no one was harmed in their case, Artz said the incident has them worried that it could happen again with different results.
"I don't think it's a freak accident, because we hear gunshots around our house all the time," she said. "I definitely think it could happen again ... like everyone is saying, if you shoot it up in the air, it's going to come down somewhere."
The best way to avoid potential tragedies like this from happening again is to leave firearms at home and report those who are acting dangerously to the proper authorities, Rainwater said.
“Go buy fireworks and leave the weapons at home,” he said. “Weapons are for self-defense, hunting and target practice.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.